I am often asked what 4H has that my child can't get elsewhere.  My response is there are many opportunities out there and this club may or may not be the right fit for your youth.  But you will never know unless you try.  And by try I mean to give it a year.  Some youth are like fish to water in joining the club others take longer to decide if it is what they wish to do.  4H is an organization for youth development, 4H Horse Specialty Club (HSC) does this centered around the horse.  In HSC the youth run the organization with leader oversight and lots of parental support and encouragement.  So yes it is more work than most clubs and organizations.  For the youth development part the learning is by doing, working things out on an individual and a group level.  Our youth with some volunteer help run five horse shows!  From hiring judges to working segments of the shows.  By doing this they learn valuable skills in organization, communication and teamwork.  Yes it is at times a challenge and even overwhelming but by doing this our youth have developed a sense of 'ownership' in the club, that is theirs and 'they' have a say in where the club is going.  In accomplishing these tasks the youth learn what commitment to something that is theirs and they believe in is about.  

Individually our youth learn to do for themselves and their club members through teaching each other individual skills.  Since we are a Specialty Club and our focus is on horse projects those with horses  are encouraged to learn all the tasks required to prepare themselves and their horses for the shows, as well as care for their horses at home.  An example would be braiding or banding the mane on show day.  Many of our youth are excellent at this and it saves them money not having to pay someone to do it, as well as they have opportunities to earn money at other horse shows.  For those without horses who are in the club, we have areas of show management they can work in as well. 

Team work again by doing is what our club is about.  We are one of the largest clubs and as in all groups not everyone always gets along.  This is a fact of life and we are no different.  We do have things in common in our horses or interest in horses.  Combined with being spread out geographically, economically and many other points many of our families have nothing in common but their youth's involvement in Horse Specialty Club.  What our youth do and do well is work together for the common goals of the club even if our club parents don't always work well with one another.  An example is our concession where the club members are taking care of customers together. 

We do community service work in the fall and our members are encouraged to participate.  A chance to give back to the community.  We also have given monies to the 4H Foundation and Southeastern Youth Fair and the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion. 

Horse Shows and Competition are a large part of what we do on top of everything else.  In competition there is elation and disappointment but again lessons to be learned.  Hard work and determination make you a better rider and a better person.  The saying,"when you fall down you get back up" takes on a different meaning with those who ride.  Currently we have 5 horse shows a year in Marion County and HSC runs all of these.  There are some youth who do not wish to compete and though encouraged it is not required for membership.  For those that do compete in three of the shows the Area C show in the spring is the beginning of out of county competition.  Progressing from there the top riders will continue to the State show in Tampa (the weekend after the 4th of July).  For our younger members (those 13 or under as of September 1st the previous year) this is the end of the show season.  For those 10-13 there are new options for continuing to the regional show.  For the 4H Seniors (14 by September 1st the previous year) they are vying to be in the top 50 to go to the Southern Regional Championship show.  This show brings the best from 13 states and between 400 and 500 horses.  Florida is a very competitive state and Marion county/ HSC is a very competitive Club.

Ultimately, can youth ride and compete without belonging to HSC?  Yes.  But HSC will bring a much more complete person to the show ring of life.  One that can think and do for themselves and work with others or be a leader of others.  We have produced many college graduates and business owners and professional people over 40 years.  Most of whom feel their time with the Horse Specialty Club was well spent. 

Written by Kevin Yutani 4H Horse Specialty Club member 1979-1983  Club Leader 2004-present

Marion County 4H early 1980's